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Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art Paperback – January 31, 1957

ISBN-13: 978-0674665033 ISBN-10: 0674665031 Edition: 3rd

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Product Details

  • Series: Harvard Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 313 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 3rd edition (January 31, 1957)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674665031
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674665033
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.4 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

The central problem of this interesting book is to ascertain precisely the functions served by myth, ritual, and especially the arts, and to develop an adequate theory of artistic significance...What is novel in this book is...Mrs. Langer's development of her theme within the framework of a general theory of symbolism, in accordance with her conviction that the coming period of creative philosophy will use the distinctions of symbolic analysis as its key concepts. To her task she brings an unusual equipment: a solid grounding in modern logical and philosophical analysis, a wide familiarity with relevant anthropological literature, and an expert knowledge of the materials of the arts, especially music...Her analyses are singularly earnest and vigorous, and her conception of the problem is fresh and generally broad. (Ernest Nagel Journal of Philosophy)

The leading contention of Mrs. Langer's striking book resides in the thesis that there is a bifurcation of the world of human meaning into the two domains of semantic and symbolic interpretation, and that the elucidation of the semantic side, which proliferates into the fields of viable behaviour and the logic of the sciences, has, in philosophy, been yielding place for some time past to the insistent claims of the symbolic impulse...One can have little but admiration for the sanity and clarity of the principles of interpretation to which Mrs. Langer subscribes. (Times Literary Supplement)

One of those synoptic works which, by bringing together separate areas of knowledge, suddenly reveals the pattern of reality, and gives new meaning to all one's piecemeal explorations...I know of no book in the field of aesthetics which in our time has had such a profound effect. (Herbert Read)

Review

One of those synoptic works which, by bringing together separate areas of knowledge, suddenly reveals the pattern of reality, and gives new meaning to all one's piecemeal explorations...I know of no book in the field of aesthetics which in our time has had such a profound effect.
--Herbert Read --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
_Philosophy in a New Key_ treats with a wide range of deep philosophical issues, but Langer writes in a clear, accessible style, so that the book should be both intelligible and enjoyable for a wide audience.
The book starts with the proposition that the questions we ask are more important than the answers we give, since the questions determine the potential range of answers and the shape of the world we live in. It ends by proposing a critically defensible way to deal with the "loss of meaning" which Galilean natural science's "disenchantment of the world" has brought about.
Although written in 1948, _Philosophy in a New Key_ remains vital today. Indeed, in key ways it still remains (alas...) ahead of *our* time.
A truly great -- humane -- work.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Ken Pribbeno (FamPrib@aol.com) on May 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
Written in the 40's, but still as valid today as ever. Not exactly PC in style or language usage, but none better for clear and concise description of the human philosophical/mental condition. As we start to scratch the surface of our gray matter in the upcoming years, this theory of the mind gives us a thorough understanding of where we are. We are symbol creating creatures and that defines us as we are constantly defining our surroundings.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By F. B. Steele on April 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Philosophy in a New Key introduces the reader to the world of symbols, signs and meaning with such crystalline clarity as to generate newfound interest and heuristic momentum. What might be obscure is delivered in easy ilumination and opens the door to deeper understanding of all serious texts and their intentions. This volume is a must for the budding philosopher of language and meaning every bit as much as Quine's Ontological Relativity.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Richard B. Smith on March 16, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Philosophy in a New Key was a seminal work in my thinking when I first read it more than fifty years ago. Suzanne Langer's dictum that the way we propose a question in large measure determines the answers we arrive at was an early formulation of the modern advice to "think outside the box." I recently finished reading Earl Doherty's book, The Jesus Puzzle. He posed the question, "Was Jesus of Nazareth a historical character?" He provides a very cogent argument that the Jesus of the Bible was in fact a literary allegory that combined ideas of a Christ figure current in some circles in the first century C.E. with the legend of Jesus circulating among Christian sects and that Jesus Christ was a historicized version of these ideas. When fully developed over time, the Jesus story became the source of orthodox Christian theology. By adhering closely to his hypothesis, Doherty thoroughly debunks the gospels as History, but in doing so he entirely avoids the question of the meaning of the Bible as allegory. This, Langer would argue, is symptomatic of modern scientific inquiry that seeks only verifiable "facts." "Science," she writes, "is an intellectual scheme for handling facts, a vast and relatively stable context in which whole classes of facts may be understood. But is is not the most decisive expression of realistic thinking; that is the new 'historical sense.Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Martin on September 30, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'll pretty much echo the other reviews I've seen here. This book is over seventy years old but still full of new ideas. Not a bit out of date, it may deepen your thinking about a lot of the theories you hear about language, the origins of myth and religion, logic, art, animal vs. human intelligence, and so on.

And if you read this and get anything from it, please don't forget that this is just one and not the biggest of Langer's works. She used this as the starting point for her later exploration of the arts in "Feeling and Form," in which she puts to use the ideas of Philosophy in a New Key. Her major opus is the three volume "Mind", which I haven't tackled yet.

Get the book, and stick with it for a relatively dry couple chapters while Langer lays some groundwork in symbolic logic. You'll be glad you did.
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